Winter Driving Tips and Vehicle Checks

Useful advice including how to check your tyre pressure, look for wear and tear and to top up the various fluids in your car. This will help you to save money, inconvenience and above all keep you safe on the roads.

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Winter Driving Tips

Driving in snow or ice

If you find yourself driving in snow or on icy or snow covered roads, adapt your driving to these conditions:

Reduce your speed. The chances of skidding are much greater and your stopping distance will increase massively.
Only travel at a speed at which you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear. Speed limits are the maximum in ideal conditions; in difficult conditions, they can often be too fast.
Avoid harsh braking and acceleration, or sharp steering.
Always reduce your speed smoothly and in plenty of time on slippery surfaces.
Slow down in plenty of time before bends and corners.
Braking on an icy or snow covered bend is extremely dangerous. The centrifugal force will continue to pull you outwards and the wheels will not grip very well. This could cause your vehicle to spin.
To brake on ice and snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use your brakes gently.
Increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front. You may need up to TEN TIMES the normal distance for braking.
Keep your vehicle well-ventilated. The car heater turned up full can quickly make you drowsy.
In snow, stop frequently to clean the windows, wheel arches, lights and number plates.
Visibility will probably be reduced, so use dipped headlights.
During wintry weather, road surfaces are often wet and/or covered in frost and ice or snow. But this does not occur uniformly. A road will often have isolated patches of frost or ice after most of the road has thawed – this commonly occurs under bridges.
If you get stuck in snow:

If you get stuck in snow, revving your engine to try to power out of the rut will just make the rut worse. Instead, move your vehicle slowly backwards and forwards out of the rut using the highest gear you can.
If this doesn’t work, you may have to ask a friendly passerby for a push or get your shovel out.
If you get caught in a snow drift:

Don’t leave your vehicle
Call your breakdown service or the emergency services and let help come to you.
Don’t run the engine to keep warm

Rain

Rain reduces your ability to see and greatly increases the distance required to slow down and stop. Remember that you will need about TWICE your normal braking distance. Use windscreen wipers, washers and dipped headlights; drive smoothly and plan your moves in plenty of time

Aquaplaning

Aquaplaning is caused by driving too fast into surface water. When the tyre tread cannot channel away enough water, the tyre(s) lose contact with the road and your car will float on a wedge of water. Aquaplaning can be avoided by reducing speed in wet conditions. Having the correct tyre pressure and tyre tread depth will maximise your tyres’ ability to maintain their road grip. If it happens, ease off the accelerator and brakes until your speed drops sufficiently for the car tyres to make contact with the road again.

Flooded roads

Avoid the deepest water – which is usually near the kerb.
Don’t attempt to cross if the water seems too deep.
If you are not sure of the water’s depth, look for an alternative route.
If you decide to risk it, drive slowly in first gear but keep the engine speed high by slipping the clutch – this will stop you from stalling.
Be aware of the bow wave from approaching vehicles – operate an informal ‘give way’ with approaching vehicles.
Remember to test your brakes when you are through the flood.

Fog

Avoid driving in fog unless your journey is absolutely necessary.

Fog is one of the most dangerous weather conditions. An accident involving one vehicle can quickly involve many others, especially if they are driving too close to one another.

If you must drive:

Follow weather forecasts and general advice to drivers in the local and national media
Allow plenty of extra time for your journey
Check your car before you set off. Make sure everything is in good working order, especially the lights
Reduce your speed and keep it down

Switch on headlights and fog lamps if visibility is reduced
If you can see the vehicles to your rear, the drivers behind can see you – switch off your rear fog lamps to avoid dazzling them
Use the demister and windscreen wipers
Do not ‘hang on’ to the rear lights of the car in front as you will be too close to be able to brake safely
Switch off distracting noises and open the window slightly so that you can listen for other traffic, especially at crossroads and junctions
Beware of speeding up immediately visibility improves slightly. In patchy fog you could find yourself ‘driving blind’ again only moments later
If you break down, inform the police and get the vehicle off the road as soon as possible. Never park on the road in fog and never leave it without warning lights of some kind if it is on the wrong side of the road
Strong Winds

Hold on tight
Avoid bridges
If driving a high sided vehicle…don’t.

Low Sunshine

Ironically, having talked about all these poor winter weather conditions, winter suns can also cause difficulties. In Winter, the angle of the sun in the sky will frequently be too low for your visor to help. If blinded by glare:

Reduce your speed
Reduce the effect of glare by keeping both the inside and outside of your windscreen clean and grease free.
If you wear sunglasses (with prescription lenses if necessary) take them off whenever the sun goes in. They should not be worn in duller weather or at night as they seriously reduce the ability to see.
If the Worst Happens

If you get stranded, don’t panic.

Stay with your vehicle and call the Emergency services on your mobile phone.

Further information

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